Tom Strini
Milwaukee Scribe

Seven things I’ve been meaning to tell you…

MSO Pops & me; Florentine's Grammy; Hagen's Chicago "Amelia"; "Genesis"; help the jazz kids; Above the Clouds; mandolins!

By - Feb 12th, 2013 03:33 pm

Tom Strini, hard at work at TCD headquarters.

1. I’m teaching a course, American Songbook 1920-1960, for the Honors College at UWM. The Milwaukee Symphony Pops, with Sarah Hicks conducting, is playing an American Songbook program at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall. So it’s natural for us to get together on this: I’m giving a pre-concert talk on how the American Songbook came to be at 7:15 p.m. Friday. So drop in a little early on Friday. I’ll be glad to see you.

2. The Florentine Opera’s recording of Don Davis’ Rio de Sangre has won a Grammy Award. Blanton Alspaugh won classical producer of the year for his work on the recording, made during the world premiere performance at the Marcus Center Uihlein Hall in October of 2010. This is the Florentine’s third Grammy. The company won two last year, for its March 2010 recording of Elmer Gantry, by composer Robert Aldridge and librettist Herschel Garfein.

3. Daron Hagen’s Amelia, an opera loaded with Milwaukee connections, will land in Chicago March 1-2. It began life as Flight Music, for women’s choir and chamber ensemble. The Milwaukee Choral Artists and Present Music premiered at the 2005 Thanksgiving concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. From that, Hagen built an opera built around Amelia Earhart. He pitched it to Seattle Opera, which hooked him up with director/librettist Stephen Wadsworth, once the co-artistic director of Skylight Music Theatre, for some narrative re-working. Wadsworth emphasized a Vietnam War angle. The Seattle Opera gave the work its world premiere in May of 2010.

Composer Daron Hagen

Composer Daron Hagen

Hagen, though long ensconced in New York, is a Waukesha native. His music has been played a lot in Milwaukee and Madison, and we came to be friendly over the years. Just before the Seattle premiere, he dropped in to do a spot on our short-lived Arts Digest show on MPTV. Now, we Midwesterners can see Amelia live and fully staged, in Chicago at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, in the Performing Arts Center at Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W. Cermak Road. Roosevelt University is producing Amelia. The performances are free and open to the public and tickets are not required. Seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. One final Milwaukee connection: The conductor is James Paul, former assistant conductor of the MSO.

4. In case you missed it, here are the winners and details of the recent Milwaukee Ballet Genesis International Choreography Competition:

Gabrielle Lamb won the $3,000 first prize and as winner is invited back next season to create a new piece for the company. Lamb’s Manifold featured Kara Bruzina, Mengjun Chen, Susan Gartell, Justin Genna, Annia Hidalgo, Rachel Malehorn, Marc Petrocci and Petr Zahradnicek.  James Gregg’s Biorhythm took second ($2,000) and Lauren Edson‘s I Hit the Ground third ($1,000). Edson also won the $500 Audience Favorite Award. Artistic director Michael Pink selected these finalists from 30 video entries from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Latvia, Spain and the United States. The panel for the finals comprised Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis; Paul Vasterling, artistic director of Nashville Ballet; and Simone Ferro, chair of the Department of Dance at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts.

batterman-poster5. The Batterman Jazz Ensemble of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music has been invited to the finals of the Charles Mingus National High School Jazz Competition in New York. Problem is, the kids have to pay their own way to get there. Naturally, they’re putting on a benefit concert to fund the trip, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the conservatory, 1584 N. Prospect Ave. Suggested donation: A mere $7. The Batterman family, which supports the Conservatory’s Jazz Institute through the Eric D. Batterman Memorial Grant, will match the total raised Wednesday night. Yes, you can contribute more, and no, you need not attend to contribute to help send the kids to NYC. Just call the conservatory, 414 276-5760, to arrange a donation.

6. A good thing: Above the Clouds, Inc., is expanding its free arts education programming for at-risk Milwaukee youth with the assistance of an $80,000 grant from the Helen Bader Foundation. The grant will make it possible for ATC to triple the number at-risk youth it serves annually, from 600 to more than 1,800m with its expansion into the Layton Boulevard West community. Free after-school classes begin Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Urban Ecology Center’s new Menomonee River Valley site.

Above the Clouds provides free art education, dance and movement classes for disadvantaged children ages 5 to 17 in Milwaukee’s inner city. With waiting lists for Above the Clouds’ eight current sites continually growing, founder Linda Wade was looking for a way to expand. The two-year, $80,000 grant from HBF will help maintain ATC’s current sites and expand ATC’s after-school community arts programming to the Layton Boulevard West community where, according to the 2010 census, a 33 percent of the community’s dense population of 21,000 are under the age of 18—compared to a citywide average of 27 percent.

Above the Cloud’s first class at the Urban Ecology Center at 3700 W. Pierce St. in the Menomonee River Valley starts Feb. 13 with a jazz/hip hop class from 4:30 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. for 5-8 year-olds, and the same class from 5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. for 9-15 year-olds. Classes run until the end of May, and each child participating will be able to showcase what they learned with other children at Above the Clouds’ eight sites at its annual spring recital on May 17.

For further information, visit the Above the Clouds website or call 414 344-3019.

7. And last but not least, in honor of Darwin Day, the irresistible Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, like a force of nature in “The Evolution Rag,” composed by Thomas Allen in 1913:

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